Buzz words in our day are abundant; certainly these include the term connected.
More than ever before, we have access to the world, our families, and a plethora of current events and breaking news. We can see and hear the updates in the world as they unfold before our eyes. Situations where there is no cell service or computers or the Internet are becoming less frequent and altogether disappearing.
Yet, to stop and think about it, the irony of that claim is obvious. We have all been in situations where our focus and our presence are incongruent and nothing short of disparate. I remember going to my son’s musical performance at a friend’s home a number of years ago when he was still in high school. It felt a little awkward since I didn’t know all the young people there, and it was my first time in this particular host’s home. Nevertheless, I was warmly greeted and invited into the living room. After saying hello to the young people, I sat down in an oversized recliner. Oddly, the room was silent while everyone was texting someone else on cell phones. At the time, this seemed very odd. Friends were sitting inches from each other without speaking audibly. But strangely, it doesn’t seem all that unusual now. This malady does not just affect the young. The more mature generation faces this challenge as well, spending hours trying to figure out the latest technology, such as speaking to loved ones over Skype, viewing a delayed broadcast with a DVR, and mastering the latest smartphone update (perhaps that’s another oxymoron). But are we really better connected?
I once worked in a call center and talked to people all across the world. This was when call centers were new and not so ubiquitous as they are now. I heard amazing stories about common interactions with people all across the country. Some agents kept track of the states from which they received calls. For many it was a game. But I remember feeling perpetually bound to the phone and couldn’t wait for a break. When cell phones first became available, I thought why would I ever be saddled with one of them. To me, it felt more like a ball-and-chain than freedom through a channel of communication. Certainly this miracle of technology has better linked us with others, or has it? This story occurred long before texting or smartphones or social media etc. How many times has the person you are talking with said “Hold on a second. I am getting a call.” Then for a moment, maybe longer, you wait to continue your discussion. When the previous conversation resumes, it starts with “What were we talking about?”
Now I am not disparaging technology. It has been a great blessing to me, my livelihood and more. We benefit from its discoveries daily and what we take for granted today was—not that long ago—beyond our wildest imaginations. But too much of anything can be harmful and that goes for technology as well. Who would have thought we could carry a device in our pocket that would allow us to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere on earth? Or call anyplace in the United States and talk for as long as we wanted without long distance charges. Cell phones, computers, digital devices of all kinds, and the Internet are wonderful. But we have to be careful.
When I first met my wife our conversations eventually turned to family and home. That’s when I learned her father had passed away when she was just 10-years-old. So I asked her to tell me what she remembered about him. She told me how she and her dad would go to high school football games together. They watched professional baseball, and perhaps my favorite memory, he took my wife and her friend to the county fair where he bought them long fringed leather purses that were right in fashion back in the 70s. That was only days before his death.
These are simple memories that have lasted her entire lifetime.
So today’s plea, this warning, my suggestion…don’t let technology steal one minute more of the precious hours remaining in your life. Allow it to bring you together, to reach out and edify those you love, and then use it to be with them and connect for real while you still can.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.